Last week, Illinois became the first state to allow lottery tickets to be sold online. On the first day of sales, tickets for the games Mega Millions and Lotto brought in $15,000 for the state.
Illinois as the guinea pig
Over the next three years, Illinois will be using the money from these lottery sales to help pay for its $31 billion capital construction program passed in 2009. It’s expected to generate as much as $118 million annually, and will then be applied toward roadwork, school construction and other state building projects. “Everybody’s looking at us. This is technologically groundbreaking, public policy groundbreaking, and will help make the lottery hopefully become a vibrant thing in the lives of Illinoisans again,” state Lottery Supt. Michael Jones said. (1)
The argument against online gambling
Anyone affected by a gambling addiction will probably be a bit critical of a state selling online lottery tickets. “The easier it is to gamble, the more people will gamble,” said Dr. Mark Dixon, director of the Gambling Intervention Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. (2) “I think that people will not realize that a dollar on the screen is the same as a dollar in their pocket, or a dollar out of their pocket.” (2)
It’s just so easy — sit at home on the couch, click on some links and bamn — lottery tickets. Players can even add bank account or credit card information to their online accounts for added ease. Without having to leave the house, someone with a gambling addiction could fall into the habit of very quickly attaining online tickets. “The problem with the Internet is it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from your home, from your cell phone, from your office,” said Anita Bedell, executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems. “Anybody could get on and get this.” (1)
When gambling becomes an addiction
Critics argue that online lottery sales will cause an increase in both gambling addiction and underage gambling. Supporters of the online lottery disagree, and say measures are in place to verify that the minimum age of 18 is being met, and that a maximum of $100 per day is spent on tickets. As for gambling addicts, Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones doesn’t really seem too concerned. “Lotteries are a very, very different form of gambling because of their nature,” Jones said. “You risk a small amount against very long odds. We don’t offer the kind of action that’s usually associated with addictive behavior.” (3)